Mark Carolan has been driving for International Forwarding (IFL) for almost 10 years – through Brexit, the pandemic and the national shortage of HGV drivers – following an earlier career serving in the British Army. We asked Mark about his journey from the Armed Forces to Civvy Street and why the transport industry has been such a good fit.
This summer Palletways – the palletised freight network of which we’re a member – received a Gold Award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) for the Armed Forces Covenant. Awarded by the Ministry of Defence, the ERS Award recognises organisations that actively support the Armed Forces community.
To celebrate this, we wanted to highlight one of our own much valued, ex-Forces staff members. It’s taken a while to pin him down given his life on the road but we’re very pleased to hear from Mark Carolan on working as a Class 1 HGV driver for IFL.
How long have you worked as an HGV driver?
Since May 2015. I worked for IFL later that year as an agency driver and went full time in January 2016 as a Class 2 Palletways delivery driver.
What’s your background? What was your role in the armed forces?
I joined the British Army straight from school, at the age of 17, joining a well-regarded infantry regiment called the Royal Green Jackets. I served with the 2nd Battalion, which was an mechanised armoured unit using different armoured vehicles, and became qualified as a signaller and mobile vehicle telecommunications specialist.
I served for five years, and was based in Germany, Former Yugoslavia and Bosnia. I left the Army while based in the UK in 2004.
How did you find going from a forces role to working in the transport industry?
I tried a few different jobs after leaving the Army, including working in the motor vehicle service and repair industry for over 10 years. I had many different employers and struggled to stay anywhere for long due to the very different way ‘civvy street’ employers did things. Eventually I borrowed some money and did my HGV training, which has been a much better fit for me.
I’ve found the transport industry to be a similar style of environment. It needs people who are calm, organised, responsible and alert, and also have good physical strength. There’s also a similar structure to life in the Army – although they’re very different occupations, both include camaraderie and belonging, follow schedules and have set tasks day to day.
What does your job at IFL involve?
I’m a jack of all driving roles within IFL. When I started, I did all the different Class 2 rigid Palletways runs. Now I mainly do general haulage longer distance jobs that involve early 4am starts and occasional nights away, as far as Cornwall or Carlisle.
I also do Class 1 HGV work holiday cover, collecting and delivering loads of multiple types of goods to and from our storage customers. And I occasionally cover our Class 1 double decker night drivers doing multiple runs to and from the Palletways distribution hub at Fradley Park in Staffordshire.
I get to see all sides of the business dealing with many different customers and I absolutely love mixing it up. But I must admit the Class 1 artic work is my favourite.
What do you drive for work?
I have my own 18-ton rigid DAF CF that I drive most days for the general haulage work. I’ve had it since it was new and it’s my daily work horse – with a good few creature comforts in it. But I also drive most of our Class 1 artic units, either DAF XF or Volvo FH. Again though, I do absolutely love driving our Class 1 DAF CFs.
What’s been your biggest work challenge?
Being a driver – and the customer-facing part of the company – it was difficult during the pandemic. We had to deal with the different ways transport hubs and distribution networks dealt with Covid restrictions. Not having access to some on-site facilities and having to challenge site staff on our rights as visiting drivers was definitely challenging.
You recently hiked up Ben Nevis – why?
I’ve always absolutely loved the great outdoors. That’s why I joined the infantry specifically. I have loved doing fishing, biking and have even played competitive paintball all around the UK. But hiking for me is especially rewarding as you get to see some wonderful places. It can also be a real challenge and I love to push myself.
Ben Nevis was top of my list after hiking up the other two of the UK’s three highest peaks – Scafell Pike and Snowdon – and raising money for other cancer charities, which is always a worthwhile effort and rewarding in itself.
>> Read more: OVER £500 RAISED FROM BEN NEVIS CHARITY HIKE
What’s your next hiking or charity challenge?
The three peaks are completed BUT not in 24 hours. That may be my next challenge but it’s really, really hard and I’m not getting any younger! After a big effort for Ben Nevis, however, I’m getting slimmer and fitter again, so maybe it is the next goal. Or, what the hell, maybe I’ll go all out and do Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania at nearly 6,000m – if IFL or Palletways would like to sponsor me for charity…
Find out more
Thank you again to Mark for his insights. You can read more Q&As with our fantastic Team IFL staff members:
- 30th anniversary interview: founding IFL director Roy Baker
- Interview: Trisha Slater, operations director, IFL
- Interview: Andy Grubb, IFL’s new sales director
Or find out more here about our charity challenges and sponsorship stories.